Many marketers like to talk about innovation and being on the cutting edge, but as Head of Creative/Sales Media at AUDI AG, Jörg Dietzel really is working with people who are building the future. From tête-à-têtes with the auto giant’s Head of Design to a content project all about Audi’s Lunar quattro moon rover mission (due to touch down in 2019), Jörg’s work allows him to catch a glimpse of tomorrow.
Feet back on earth, Jörg’s day-to-day responsibilities include looking after all the creative that comes out of HQ and to work with the top creative agencies that partner Audi around the world. His ambition is for Audi to be acknowledged as the most creative and innovative car brand in the world. There’s a back catalogue of finely-crafted, clever commercials, from The Swan right up to 2017’s fantastic Ringan Ledwidge-directed Clowns, so it’s got a fine creative heritage. But Audi is also exploring and pioneering new platforms of communication.
This spring Jörg will also be judging at the World Media Awards (Little Black Book is this year’s official media sponsor – and the deadline for entry is January 25th) so he’s looking forward to immersing himself in the best work that the world has to offer.
LBB’s Laura Swinton spoke to him to find out more.
LBB> In your role, what are your responsibilities and ambitions for the brand?
JD> I look after all centrally produced creative – from launch campaigns to content for special projects. Materials are then adapted and used by the markets worldwide. The ambition is to have Audi recognised as the most creative, most innovative car brand in communications.
LBB> In your career you spent many years working across Asia, from Singapore to South Korea. Now you are back in Germany and working with Audi – a global brand but with a very German footprint – how valuable is that international experience and insight to your current role?
JD> Germany is no longer our biggest market - China is - and in any headquarter role we must be aware of the needs of these markets. So, it helps having worked in one. Also, Asia is clearly one of the up-and-coming growth areas for us, so an understanding of mentalities and cultures in Asia helps when producing global materials. That can be as simple as including Asian talent in a film or as complicated as assessing agency ideas based on cultural fit.
LBB> From an outside perspective, I would say that I would associate Audi’s content and advertising with craft. However the brand’s strategies or execution varies from region to region, for me, the real constant is the craft. What’s the key to maintaining that consistently high level?
JD> The key is having the right people, the best people. I am always amazed at the level of professionalism and experience (often from both client- as well as agency-side) of my marketing colleagues around the world. Most of them, incidentally, come from the market they are working in, so they have not only a high ambition of creating the best work but also a good understanding of local target groups. Others come from different markets or our German HQ but engage with the local culture and rely on strong local teams and agencies to make sure everything we send out as a brand answers to the same high standard.
LBB> And at a time when brands are putting out (and consumers are consuming) more content than ever, how do you make sure that the Audi quality and craft doesn’t get lost?
JD> Apart from having the right people in decision-making positions about content on all levels, it’s about communication. We meet with our international marketing colleagues several times per year to share updates on planned projects as well as learning from them and their ideas, many of which would have internationalisation potential. Also, less is more in our view – we’d rather have a few well-crafted, relevant pieces that really connect than a load of half-baked ideas.
LBB> The automotive industry is one that is seeing so much exciting innovation and new technology, particularly the much-anticipated ‘driverless car’. As a creatively minded person, how much inspiration do you get from working with the engineers and inventors at Audi?
JD> It’s probably our biggest inspiration. I recently spent an afternoon with Marc Lichte, our global head of design, and we looked at studies for cars that are to come in the future. If you hear him talk about what we’re going to see in the months and years to come and feel his enthusiasm for change, you can’t help but translate that into communication and the way we engage customers.
LBB> Looking at platforms, there’s a lot for marketers to play with at the moment. From Facebook Live to AR to Alexa… which new bits of tech or new platforms are getting you excited at the moment? And when it comes to deciding which bits of tech or platforms to engage with, how do you ensure that they’re right for the brand and business?
JD> We are working with platforms on two levels – one is the global view where we talk to experts, consult with the markets and then produce a few content pieces for the channels that are globally relevant at the moment. In addition, innovation plays a big part – as a global driver of innovation in our industry we are always on the lookout for new, innovative platforms. At the same time, print is alive and well, and we have a very cool content collaboration with MONOCLE going on, which talks about the road to zero emission. But most importantly, communication is all about reaching our target groups where they are and on the platform they are using. These may differ from model to model and market to market. So, most of the decisions about what are the right platforms to use for a specific campaign in a specific market is made by that market. That’s why most of our media budgets are placed within the markets because they know best how to effectively reach their targets.
LBB> Your position is global and Audi works with a number of top creative agencies around the world – how do you juggle and nurture these working relationships to get the best work from them?
JD> We need to use the best ideas to get our messages across – with limited media budgets creativity can help ideas to cut through the clutter and reach the audience. That’s why we are working with the best agencies on a global level – from BBH in London to DDB in Barcelona, VBP in San Francisco to thjnk in Germany, and many others. Often they compete on a specific project; we believe a healthy dose of competition brings out the best ideas. We try to be very respectful in the way we work with our agencies – from a structured brief to ample time for idea development to pitch fees. But we are also very loyal to our agencies and they to us – most of our relationships go back decades.
LBB> A number of brands have been increasing their in-house creative capabilities over recent years. What’s the view and situation at Audi? What sort of in-house creative/production capabilities do you have? Is it something you’re looking to grow? Or does working with external partners bring something that you can’t replicate?
JD> Coming from an agency background, I am very aware of the kind of environment that top creative minds need – they need to be stimulated, to work on different brands, to shoot the breeze with their fellow creatives. As a corporate office, with all the necessary red tape that a 90,000 strong organisation needs, we can’t offer that kind of culture (even though we’re sometimes envious of stimulating agency environments). So top creative talent will never move in-house to a manufacturer and is much better placed within an agency, with the added opportunity of increasing market value through creative awards.
LBB> The World Media Awards celebrates content-led advertising. How has the content strategy at Audi evolved over recent years? How central is content to your marketing and communication strategy?
JD> A few years ago we established a content factory at Audi HQ – a small, dedicated team reporting directly to me that works with agencies to develop content pieces outside of the usual product launch campaigns. This goes from our Mission to the Moon to doing quattro pieces with skier Candide Thovex, from activating our Formula E participation to finding the best content from the markets and internationalising it.
LBB> What content-driven projects has Audi put out over the past few months that you’re really proud of?
JD> I love everything we did (and will do) for our Mission to the Moon, where we will fly our Lunar quattro moon rover back to the moon in 2019.
LBB> As a marketer, why is judging at the World Media Awards a useful experience to you?
JD> It’s always great to see how other marketers and different industries steer their brands, to be inspired by great ideas that work across borders.
LBB> What are you hoping to see from the entries this year?
JD> Fresh, simple ideas that work across channels and across borders, reflecting a human truth.